Last Saturday, Jan. 28, the Dirigo Poetry Collective hosted the Bangor Humanities Day Poetry Slam at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor. A poetry slam is a competition where poets can perform their work for evaluation (be it with or without points) by an audience. There were no winners last Saturday. Instead, the poets got to display their work to a welcoming audience without being judged or given a score.
Founded by Cameron Grover, the Dirigo Poetry Collective is a community of writers and performers who work together to foster Maine poetry.
“I wanted to start a collective that felt open to college and high school students, with the goal of bringing them out of classrooms,” Grover, a graduate student at the University of Maine, said.
Four poets performed to an audience comprised of UMaine students, faculty and greater Bangor community members. There were three rounds of performances, with 10-minute breaks in between.
Grover kicked the night off, followed by Jane Pappas, a third-year UMaine student and Prateek Kunwar, who graduated from the UMaine graduate school last December. Katherine Scott, a fourth-year UMaine student, finished the rounds with her poems.
Poets each brought something different to the stage. Some sounded nervous at first, as if performing for the first time all over again. However, the snaps of affirmation from the audience gave these poets a boost of confidence and energy. The noise of the bar, though at times distracting, forced the audience to be active listeners. When poets took the stage, the sounds of chatter and clinking glasses faded in the background.
When Jane Pappas performs her work in front of friends and strangers, she feels powerful. “When I say something really true to me and it resonates with other people, there is power in that,” Pappas said. “I have a high of adrenaline after performing. I feel very happy, excited and relaxed; never as nervous afterward and always wanna perform more.”
During the 10-minute breaks, people in the audience had a chance to talk to the poets. Positive feedback and words of affirmation were encouraged by Grover, who hosted the poetry slam in addition to organizing it and performing in it.
“I am a severe extrovert, so it’s not much of a challenge for me to be in charge of an event and in charge of my words,” Grover said. His loyalty to the poetry community motivates Grover to keep being involved with poetry slams.
More than 35 people enjoyed the night of poems about love, heartbeat, social change, mental health battles and more. Steve Evans, the coordinator of New Writing Series at UMaine, was among the audience.
“I enjoyed the evening very well. It was great to hear these four young poets,” Evans said. ”I liked Katherine’s literariness, Jane’s theatricality, Prateek’s dark humor and Cameron’s charisma and ability to hold the room together.”
On Feb. 17, Neil Hilborn, an author known for his viral slam poem “OCD,” will perform at the North Pod in the Memorial Union. If you want to experience slam poetry for yourself, mark up your calendars.